For all constant Sacrifices Should Tigray and the Tigrayans be remunerated with discrimination, persecution and uprooting? Part one
By Selam Yiheyis (PhD), Canada
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, August 11, 2016
Requiem for Justice and History: For all constant Sacrifices Should Tigray and the Tigrayans be remunerated with discrimination, persecution and uprooting?
Peace is the most prominent factor in investors’ considerations of investment, followed by availability of resources (labour, capital, and technology), investment policies and attached tax incentives. Tigray, by virtue of its dangerous geo-political situation vis-a-vis Eritrea, has missed big foreign investment opportunities that other regions have attracted. Even most Tigrayans have invested their rare resources in Addis Ababa. Consequently, the Tigrayans have been locked from their relatively vibrant traditional trading and investment opportunities in Eritrea and other Ethiopian historical provinces. No wonder Tigray has lagged way behind all other regions to bear the cost of the rest regions securitization. It appears that appeasements and denials have made Tigrayans security across Ethiopia as more seriously compromised during the EPRDF regime than ever before. This article argues that since Tigray has still been a war front not for its own fault, and thus, it deserves appropriate socio-economic compensation from Ethiopian Federalism. This week is even more gruesome for the Tigrayans across the board. What has history and justice hold for Tigray?
Did Tigray Lost or gained from Ethiopian Economic Development?
This author argues that Tigray has become peripheral to Ethiopian development trajectory as it was left far behind all other regions. One may dare saying Tigray has gained very little concrete benefits, though sacrificed more, from current Ethiopian development avenues than often assumed. It even deserves compensation for defending Ethiopian sovereignty and losing opportunities for growth that others in the hinterlands have enjoyed. Or put it differently, Tigray has never gained proportionate to the sacrifices it endured over the last three or more decades. Nor did the Tigrayans benefitted so greatly from the changes as opposition groups and Tigreo-phobic propagators perceived and disseminated for decades. In fact, Tigray has the highest rate of poverty than the rest of Ethiopia only next to Afar. This claim differs from the general perception. And, arguably, contrary to its persistent sacrifices to defend Ethiopian sovereignty well for over a century, Tigray and Tigrayans are subject to perpetuation of abject poverty, verbal harassment, physical violence and psychological warfare through vast areas of the country, especially Oromia and Amhara regions.
I would like to explain in detail to illustrate my argument. It may be likely that some Tigrayans may lack tactical communication approaches and may possibly provoke others into hate politics. But the trend is that the more vocal and irresponsible elements of the opposition are growing more xenophobic and have been hell bent on generally marginalizing ethnic Tigrayans. They are fabricating lies to antagonize them with the Oromos, Amharas and many other Ethiopian nations and nationalities, relaying stories to those foreigners who would like to divide us and prey on us. And it is more worrisome that the younger generation are susceptible to Tigreo-phobia. I have series of questions that needs closer scrutiny including:
What did the Tigrayans do anything bad against their compatriot Ethiopians?
Should they be targeted for sacrificing over 60,000 lives and disabled over 100, 000 fighters for their beloved nation to which the Amharas and Oromos belong?
Is that what they deserve in gratitude?
That kind of parochial anti-Tigrayan sentiment should be condemned from which ever direction it might come, including from the TPLF itself which claims to have liberated the Tigrayans. The same condemnation is due to any cases of anti-Oromo sentiment or, anti-Amhara campaign, or anti-any national/ethnic group campaign in any way. That does not fare contemporary Ethiopia in any meaningful way. Likewise, it should not discourage Tigrayans from being resolute and responsible citizens either. However, the traditional adage “silence is gold” does not always hold true. We have seen it this week all over Ethiopia when toxic hate boiled up and exploded to the ground signaling the worst scenario yet to come unless carefully handled right away. Mind you never lose sight that what was these days hate campaigns and persecutions against the Tigrayans will spread tomorrow against the Oromos, the Amahars and many more other ethnic groups in thereby paving the stage for another zemen mesafint. (era of princes) !
The Walkayt issue and the question of identity was just a lame excuse for the simmering hate campaign against Tigrayans, the Ethiopian national integrity and the EPRDF led government. It should not have triggered all this non-sensual mob and violent conflict if it were not for elements of ANDM’s authorities’ complicity with the hate campaigns. Is Welkayt going to Eritrea or Sudan? Weren’t Afar salt and potash deposits, irrigation and tourism resources and Abergelle no less, if not much more lucrative than Welakyte? Why would not the Tigrayans stage violent claims of restoring these territories to Tigray? Aren’t those areas opened for hard working Gonderes as they are for Tigrayans within the wider frame work of Ethiopia? Or is that reiterated myth of Tigrayan secession with those lands precipitating unprecedented riots or just is it that the rioters have succumbed into Shaebiya and ERI-SAT assiduous and divisive propaganda warfare? The Tigrayans have no illusion what so ever about their Ethiopian identity perhaps much more solid than the gullible rioters who are espousing anti-Ethiopian agenda in the open streets! Alas! the irony of history in the making!
Hate campaigns distressed the Tigrayns leaving many folks with post-incidence psychological traumas. Hate campaigns and targeted destruction of Tigrayan lives and properties in Gonder has left many Tigrayans devastated and shocked beyond limit. It so remained a black spot in the history of ANDM and Amhara Region. What is even more disparaging fact is that ANDM’s communication head, Ato Tilahun’s myth and gimmick to hide what was written on the wall? It rather hastens the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of proud Ethiopians while emboldening the gullible mob makers who entertained divisive agenda imported from sworn enemies of Ethiopia. Shame on you, Tilahun and your bosses! You cannot cheat our intelligence by defending a non defensible act of terror against unsuspecting. You have to have the gut to denounce the despicable act that ashamed Ethiopians not just Gonderes!
It is time for the Tigrayans and many other sincere Ethiopians to come out of the box and demystify this biased anti-Tigrayan saga. It has now appeared to be a curse to be born from Tigray when the Tigrayans have been placed between the hammers and anvils for no apparent reason except fighting and dying in defense of their country for decades anywhere in Ethiopia and its borders. It may be better to borrow Dawit Gebregziabher articulate ideas in his last July 2015 exclusive interviews to Aiga forum, VOA and the Reporter. To be honest, the Tigrayans are more of increasingly isolated, targeted for character assassination propaganda campaign and severely attacked during this time of TPLF/EPRDF they have helped to install in power than ever before in their modern history. Ethiopians and the world should clearly know that Tigrayan domination of Ethiopian politics is now more of a farce. It has hardly failed to convince or impress the Tigrayans and many other rationale Ethiopians. It is an open secret that the post 2001 TPLF/EPRDF has transformed the political arena into accommodating more multicultural and multiethnic Ethiopians and would hardly resemble the TPLF/EPRDF of 1991 which the Tigrayans had helped to ride to power.
Change and transformation in elite composition is inevitable whether the TPLF/EPRDF likes or dislikes it. Of course, there are still few Tigrayan opportunists, who manipulated the system’s weaknesses to enrich themselves unduly. But there are many more of such kinds of personalities from all other Ethiopian ethnic groups too. Do these tiny opportunist groups represent the entire descent Tigrayans? Never! There are dozen folds of elite beneficiaries from the rest of Ethiopian nationalities than the Tigraynas has ever done. But the elite are just token sample and can hardly represent the majority of poverty stricken Tigrayans.
The hard fact is that there are an overwhelming Tigrayans constantly staggering to meet ends and overcome poverty throughout the last two or more decades. Are not considerable if not the majority of those ISIS victims in Libya massacre from Tigray ethnic group?
We have been hearing worst news from 2015-16 ship drawing incidents in record run by illegal human traffickers across Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. The Tigrayan youth were among the leading prey for traffickers. Why would they take such a huge risk to their lives if they have got safe heaven here in Ethiopia? This author was holding his breath for over three past months as one of his nephews fell into human traffickers’ traps and the whole extended family are dumb praying to all deities. This has become part our day to day life in Ethiopia at large and Tigray in particular. If Tigrayans are preferentially treated, why would hundreds of them fall prey to the sharks within the Mediterranean Ocean in their hundreds? They never went for picnic. Besides, everyone can prove there is probably more number of beggars staggering to meet ends across the streets of Addis Ababa than ever before. No fair opposition group has uttered a sympathetic word about the fate of these disenfranchised Ethiopians, beyond disparaging comments. Given their difficult geo-political position, many sensible Ethiopians are skeptical that Tigrayans had an extra political economic advantages compared to the rest of Ethiopians. Lemma Kebede (26Feb,2016, Tigraionline) seems to have better articulated this Tigrayan dilemma in relation to the recent Oromo protests:
All Ethiopian nationalities from the four corners have lived, prospered for many years and are continuing to do so. But, now resource is dwindling and some selfish people from all corners of the nation are not properly responding to their [Oromo] kindness. As to the blame to the TPLF EPRDF, it is temporary. People in the future will realize the truth and the sacrifice that is being paid by TPLF EPRDF and the Tigrean people. The Tigrean people, most of them, their economic linkage was with Eritrea, Gonder and so on. Now, due to the situation in Eritrea they have different problems. What do people gain when their area is war zone in health wise, economic investment, tourism and so on .The answer is clear. In any case, for any nation to sustainably grow and survive, three things are pre-requisite. These are matured institutions, good governance and equity.(Lemma, Tigraionline, Commentary, February 26,2016)
The central issue is: does Tigray ensured food security or secured basic social services for most of its people (eg.water supplies), or economic investments (such as value adding industries) that create jobs for the youth, or agro-industrial business or lucrative business? The answer is categorically no! I can be corrected, but to me the rest of the regions have prospered much faster and fared better than Tigray over the last 15 years of stalemate with Eritrea.
The TPLF/EPRDF is highly criticized by many Tigrayans for neglecting Tigray’s development in order to show case others that it does not unduly favour Tigray. By so doing, it went far to denying modest opportunities for Tigray beyond rhetoric or empty hopes. Then, who showed passion for Tigray’s backwardness emanating from its ill-fated geo-political situation as a buffer zone (virtually a war front) for the rest of Ethiopia facing off Ethiopia’s harshest and weirdest enemy, the Shaibiya regime for over 15 years? Who showed sympathy that the Region has hardly attracted any foreign direct investment due to the invisible war?
The Ethiopian opposition has lost the simplest sight of making distinctions between the Tigrayans and the TPLF. They pour their curse on poor Tigrayans. In reality, neither over representation nor assumption of a token position would automatically bring about paradigm shift in the destiny of Tigrayans within the given federal system. There could be situations where people’s socio-economic destiny might not have improved with or without adequate representation in a government. Let us be realistic. Suffice to take composition of the imperial regime to illustrate this fact. The Shawan elite were heavily represented and dominated the government while their fellows in Menz and Bulga hardly fared (economically) any better than their counterparts in Tegray, Wallo or Semen. They were left barely with the psychological dividends of feeling part of the ruling class. That psychological dividend never ensured food security or never pooled people out of poverty. If that would have been the case, no people on earth have been intoxicated so highly like the Eritreans after Shaebiya took control of Eritrea and Eritreans have secured what they were desperately fighting for over 30 years- independence. Nevertheless, the Eritrean independence was not translated into socio-economic liberation and their hopes were dashed thereby forcing thousands of the Eritrean youth every month for immigration abroad.